The West

Sleepless Night (Nuit Blanche) (M) 3.5 stars
Tomer Sisley, Julien Boisselier, Lizzie Brochere
You'll like this if you liked Taken 1-2, the Bourne Identity films, Point Blank, 16 Blocks, The Transporter, Frantic, La Femme Nikita

If you haven't seen a good European thriller in a while or were disappointed with Taken 2 recently, then you should take in the acclaimed French actioner Sleepless Night.

This tense, claustrophobic, cops-and-mobsters hostage flick is in the mode of Euro-thrillers such as Taken (the original one), Frantic and La Femme Nikita. It's set over 24 hours, takes place almost entirely in a crowded nightclub and comes with some of the best hand-to-hand, foot-to-face fight scenes since The Raid earlier this year.

The far-fetched story almost kills it but, if you want a lean, mean thrill machine which runs you ragged and keeps you guessing, you could do a lot worse than 98 minutes of Sleepless Night.

It starts with a car chase through Paris. Two men pull out machine guns and steal a gym bag full of cocaine from the other car. That the two thieves turn out to be detectives Vincent (Tomer Sisley) and Manu (Laurent Stocker) only adds to the early intrigue. Surely they're dirty cops, right?

Keep guessing. The coke belongs to Corsican mobster Jose (Serge Riaboukine), who owns the popular nightclub Le Tarmac. He's in cahoots with Manu, and kidnaps Vincent's teenage son to trade for the coke.

Can you see where this is going? Not a chance.

The cool-headed Vincent, who was stabbed in the theft and is bleeding profusely, enters the club and hides the coke in order to make a safe trade. On his tail are several cops, an Internal Affairs officer Lacombe (Julien Boisselier) and his naive, sexy underling Delphine (Lizzie Brochere).

A breakneck game of cat-and-mouse ensues as Vincent tries to rescue his son while evading the gangsters, the cops and another gang of thugs trying to muscle in on the coke.

While the thumping doof-doof music may muffle the sound of gunshots, one of the implausibilities is that the throngs of dancers party on in that dark club despite the gunfights and fist-fights that play out in their midst.

There's a running gag as the chase repeatedly circles through the club's pool room and kitchen, with chefs aghast as cops and crims burst through the doors in mid-combat and arm themselves with knives, pots, pans and rolling pins. Let's just say they use cooking utensils in ways for which they were never intended.

As Vincent absorbs an incredible amount of punishment, Frederic Jardin directs with wild abandon and carefully placed cameras, which he keeps still, as if snubbing his nose to the shaky hand-held cams of the Bourne and Taken films that move so fast they fail to capture the action.

It's a more classical approach and Sleepless Night benefits greatly from the technique, especially in the relentless climactic fight between Vincent and Lacombe in that kitchen, who fight until they are utterly exhausted.

Sleepless Night pushes credibility the further it goes along, with every cop seemingly dirty and every clubber oblivious to the carnage. But it takes the Taken plot - a dogged father rescuing his child - a few steps further and keeps you guessing as to whether Vincent is a bad cop but a good father or vice-versa.

A Hollywood remake is already underway, and it's easy to see why. Sleepless Night is a cool, slick, cleverly staged action-thriller begging for a bigger audience.

Sleepless Night is on at 8pm every night from today to Sunday at Joondalup Pines.

The West Australian

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